American Express -- There is an office at S.P. Building, 388, Pahonyothin Rd., in Bangkok. You can reach the office at tel. 02273-0033; it's open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5pm. More Thai hot lines can be found at www.americanexpress.com, but these will be geared to help Thai card members, so check on the back of your card for your own country's relevant help lines.
ATM Networks -- Most major banks throughout the country have ATMs. In general, you can get cash with your debit card at any Bangkok Bank, Thai Farmers' Bank, or Siam Commercial Bank -- provided your card is hooked into the MasterCard/Cirrus or Visa/PLUS network.
Business Hours -- Government offices (including branch post offices) are open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm, with a lunch break between noon and 1pm. Businesses are generally open 8am to 5pm. Shops often stay open from 8am until 7pm or later, 7 days a week. Department stores are generally open 10am to 8pm. Most TAT visitor centers are open daily from 8:30am to 4pm.
Drinking Laws -- The official drinking age in Thailand is 18. You can readily buy and drink alcohol, even in supermarkets, but licensing laws apply, and legally drinks can be served only after 5pm. On some public holidays and election days, no liquor can be sold at all. Most restaurants, bars, and nightclubs sell booze, and you can pick up bottles of imported and local liquor from convenience stores. Nightspots must close at 1am (and the rule is being policed vigorously). Alcohol, hitherto readily sold over the counter anywhere, anytime, is now subject to strict licensing hours.
Drugstores -- Throughout the country, there are many drugstores stocked with brand-name medications and toiletries, plus less expensive local brands. Pharmacists often speak some English, and a number of drugs that require a prescription elsewhere can be dispensed over the counter.
Electricity -- All outlets -- except in some luxury hotels -- are 220 volts AC (50 cycles). Outlets have two flat-pronged or round-pronged holes, so you may need an adapter. If you use a 110-volt hair dryer, electric shaver, or battery charger for a computer, bring a transformer and an adapter.
Embassies & Consulates -- While most countries have consular representation in Bangkok, the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom also have consulates in Chiang Mai. Most embassies have 24-hour emergency services. If you are seriously injured or ill, call your embassy for assistance.
In the United States, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 1024 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Ste. 401, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202/944-3600; fax 202/944-3611; www.thaiembdc.org); The Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations, 351 E. 52nd St., New York, NY 10022 (tel. 212/754-2230; fax 212/688/3029); the Royal Thai Consulate-General, 611 N. Larchmont Blvd., 2nd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90004 (tel. 323/962-9574; fax 323/962-2128; www.thai-la.net); or the Royal Thai Consulate-General, 700 N. Rush St., Chicago, IL 60611-2504 (tel. 312/664-3129; fax 312/664-3230; www.thaichicago.net); the Royal Thai Consulate-General, 351 E. 52nd St., New York, NY 10022 (tel. 212/754-1770; fax 212/754-1907; www.thaiconsulnewyork.com).
In Canada, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 180 Island Park Dr., Ottawa, Ontario K1Y OA2 (tel. 613/722-4444; fax 613/722-6624; www.magma.ca/~thaiott/mainpage.htm); or the Royal Thai Embassy, 1040 Burrard St., Vancouver, BC V6Z 2R9 (tel. 604/687-1143; fax 604/687-4434; www.thaicongenvancouver.org).
In Australia, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 111 Empire Circuit Yarralumla, Canberra ACT 2600 (tel. 02/6206-0100; fax 02/6206-0123; http://canberra.thaiembassy.org); or the Royal Thai Consulate-General, Level 8, 131 Macquarie St. Sydney, NSW 2000 (tel. 02/9241-2542; fax 02/9241-2543; www.thaiconsulatesydney.org).
In New Zealand, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 2 Cook St., Karori, P.O. Box 17226, Wellington (tel. 644/476-8618; fax 644/476-3677; www.thaiembassynz.org.nz).
In the United Kingdom, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 29-30 Queen's Gate, London SW7 5JB (tel. 020/7589-2944; fax 020/7823-7492; www.thaiembassyuk.org.uk).
Emergencies -- Throughout the country, the emergency number you should use is tel. 1699 or 1155 for the Tourist Police. Don't expect many English speakers at police posts outside the major tourist areas. Ambulances must be summoned from hospitals rather than through a central service. You can also contact your embassy or consulate.
Insurance -- For information on traveler's insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, please visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Internet Access -- You'll find Internet cafes everywhere in Thailand.
Language -- Central (often called Bangkok) Thai is the official language. English is spoken in the major cities at hotels, some restaurants, and a few smart shops, and is the second language of the professional class.
Lost & Found -- To report a lost or stolen credit card in Thailand, the following companies' services are available: American Express (tel. 02273-5544); Diners Club (tel. 02238-3660); Mastercard (tel. 02260-8572); and Visa (tel. 02273-1199).
Mail -- You can pick up mail while you travel by using a poste restante, which is simply a counter at a post office where your mail is kept for you until you pick it up; normally, 2 months is the maximum hold time. For those unfamiliar with this service, it is comparable to General Delivery in the United States. Mail is addressed to you, care of Poste Restante, GPO, Name of City. You'll need proof of ID, and must sign a receipt and pay 1B per letter received. Hours of operation are the same as those of the post office.
Airmail postcards to the United States usually cost 15B, but rates depend on the size of the card; airmail letters cost 19B per 5 grams (rates to Europe are the same). Airmail delivery usually takes 7 to 20 days.
Air parcel post costs 610B per kilogram. Surface or sea parcel post costs 215B for 1 kilogram (3 or 4 months for delivery). International Express Mail (EMS) costs 440B from 1 to 250 grams, with delivery guaranteed within 7 days.
Shipping by air freight is quite costly, but most major international delivery services have offices in Bangkok and a network that extends to the provinces. These are DHL Thailand, Grand Amarin Tower Building, Phetchaburi Road (tel. 02207-0600), and Federal Express, at Rama IV Road (tel. 1782). UPS Parcel Delivery Service has a main branch in Bangkok at 16/1 Sukhumvit Soi 44/1 (tel. 02712-3300). Many businesses will also package and mail merchandise for a reasonable price.
Newspapers & Magazines -- The English-language dailies are Bangkok Post and The Nation, distributed in the morning in the capital and later in the day around the country. They cover the domestic political scene, as well as international news from Associated Press and Reuters wire services, and cost 25B. Both the Asian Wall Street Journal and International Herald Tribune are available Monday to Friday on their day of publication in Bangkok (in the provinces, it may be a day later). Time, Newsweek, and The Economist are sold in international hotels, as well as in a few of the major cities.
Passports -- For Residents of the United States: Whether you're applying in person or by mail, you can download passport applications from the U.S. Department of State website at http://travel.state.gov. For general information, call the National Passport Agency (tel. 202/647-0518). To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. Department of State website or call the National Passport Information Center (tel. 900/225-5674); the fee is 55¢ per minute for automated information and $1.50 per minute for operator-assisted calls.
For Residents of Canada: Passport applications are available at travel agencies throughout Canada or from the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).
For Residents of the United Kingdom: To pick up an application for a standard 10-year passport (5-year passport for children 15 and younger), visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency. Also contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410, or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk, for info.
For Residents of Ireland: You can apply for a 10-year passport at the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh). Those under age 18 and over 65 must apply for a €12, 3-year passport. You can also apply at 1A South Mall, Cork (tel. 021/272-525), or at most main post offices.
For Residents of Australia: You can pick up an application from your local post office or any branch of Passports Australia, but you must schedule an interview at the passport office to present your application materials. Call the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 13-12-32, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.
For Residents of New Zealand: You can pick up a passport application at any New Zealand Passports Office or download it from their website. Contact the Passports Office, at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand, or 04/474-8100; or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.
Police -- The Tourist Police (tel. 1699 or 1155), with offices in every city, speak English (and other foreign languages) and are open 24 hours. You should call them in an emergency rather than the regular police because there is no guarantee that police operators will speak English.
Restrooms -- The country's better restaurants and hotels will have Western toilets. Shops and budget hotels will have an Asian squat toilet, a ceramic platform mounted over a hole in the ground. Near the toilet is a water bucket or sink with a small ladle. The water is for flushing the toilet. Toilet paper is not provided, but some have tissue dispensers outside the restroom costing 5B. Dispose of it in the wastebasket provided, as it will clog up rudimentary sewage systems.
Smoking -- Over 5 years ago, Thailand banned smoking in public places, such as restaurants and airports. Some bars that don't serve food can get away with smokers, or have created smoker-friendly outdoor spaces, including upmarket private cigar bars. If in doubt, ask about nonsmoking sections. A few years ago, the former Prime Minister Thaksin prohibited the display of cigarettes anywhere. They are still sold but cannot appear on shelves -- you'll have to ask.
Taxes & Service Charges -- Hotels charge a 7% government value-added tax (VAT) and typically add a 10% service charge; hotel restaurants add 8.25% government tax. Smaller hotels quote the price inclusive of these charges.
Time Zone -- Thailand is 7 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). During winter months, this means that Bangkok is 7 hours ahead of London, 12 hours ahead of New York, and 15 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Daylight saving time will add 1 hour to these times.
Tipping -- If no service charge is added to your check in a fine-dining establishment, a 10% to 15% tip is appropriate. In local shops, tipping is not common. Airport or hotel porters expect tips; 50B is acceptable. Feel free to reward good service wherever you find it. Tipping taxi drivers is appreciated. Carry small bills, as many cab drivers either don't have change or won't admit to having any in the hope of getting a tip.
Useful Phone Numbers -- The U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory can be called at tel. 202/647-5225 (manned 24 hr.); the U.S. Passport Agency can be contacted at tel. 202/647-0518; and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control International Traveler's hot line is tel. 404/332-4559.
Visas -- The Immigration Division of the Royal Thai Police Department is found at 507 Soi Suan Plu (off Sathorn Rd., and a short taxi ride from Lumphini BTS; tel. 02287-3101-10). Visitors planning to stay for longer than a month can arrange for 60-day tourist visas at embassies overseas for a cost of 1,000B; this is renewable in Thailand for an additional 30 days for another 1,900B. If you overstay your visa, you will be charged 500B per day, which is payable when exiting the kingdom. Longer overstays are punishable by anything up to a 20,000B fine or a stay in jail. For more information, check www.thaivisa.com, but bear in mind that it may not be completely up-to-date.
Warning: Until they were outlawed in 2006, small travel agencies offered "visa services," wherein you paid for a courier to take your passport to a border post to get a new visa stamp. A police crackdown has put a halt to this illegal practice. Also, foreigners who take advantage of the free 30-day visa-on-arrival service must remember that they may do this only three times in a row (allowing them a cumulative stay of a maximum of 90 days). After that they will not be allowed to enter Thailand until they pay for a new visa issued by a Royal Thai Embassy overseas.
Visitor Information & Maps Tourist Authority of Thailand -- (TAT; www.tourismthailand.org) is an extensive site with information on locations throughout Thailand. However, its listings are often incorrect or out-of-date.
Water -- Don't drink the tap water here, even in the major hotels. Most hotels provide bottled water; use it for brushing your teeth as well as drinking. Most restaurants serve bottled or boiled water and ice made from boiled water, but always ask to be sure. Purified water may not have the minerals you need to replace those lost in the heat and humidity, so check the label.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.